Looking to become a better home chef? These tips and tricks will help you to up your game when it comes to your home cooking skills. These are our 9 steps for becoming a better cook.
Step 1. Find some Inspiration
A few years ago, I was stuck in a rut of cooking the same few meals over and over and over and over again. Sure, they were tasty, but I simply felt like I was too busy to find interesting, delicious recipes, and learn how to make them. But this is 2019, people! You can’t scroll through a Facebook feed without seeing new recipes (between baby pics and cat videos, of course). The internet is full of places to find great recipes, you just need to know where to look. Here are are few of my favorite places when I’m looking for recipe inspiration:
- Restaurant Menus (look for dish ideas, then google for recipes).
- Handle The Heat (for bread & baking recipes)
- Food Wishes (For cool twists on classic recipes)
- Laura in the Kitchen (especially for Italian recipes)
- Cooking Shows (I’m a sucker for Top Chef & Beat Bobby Flay).
2. Buy Real Food
The vast majority of your food should come from the produce section in the grocery store. Say goodbye to processed foods or boxed meals, we have no idea what’s really going on with those conveyer belt meals. Real meats, grains and veggies. Learn how to look for quality veggies, too.
3. Cook From Scratch
The vast majority of your cooking should be done from scratch. Pasta sauces out of a can? Those are a thing from your past. The freshness and control you get from a perfectly stewed sauce are just too good. Plus, learning to make more from scratch helps you to master more techniques, making you the better home chef we’re striving for.
4. Plan Your Meals
Much of the reason folks often end up with bland, unimaginative and unhealthy meals is because we’re simply in too much of a rush when it comes time to figure out what to make. This is where planning your meals come in great. I love an online tool called Plan To Eat*. With Plan To Eat, you can easily import the recipes you find online, then drag and drop them on a calendar for easy planning. Plan To Eat then generates a grocery list you can pull up on your phone while you shop. You can try Plan To Eat for 30 days without even giving your credit card, so totally risk free.
(* – Note: This is an affiliate link, meaning I’ll make a small commission if you sign up after clicking the link.)
6. Grow Fresh Herbs
When it comes to herbs, the fresher they are cut, the better they are. Those cans of dried spices have already lost a lot of their pizazz, and are continuing to slowly die in your spice rack. By building a small herb garden at home, you’ll be able to cut, wash and cook with your favorite herbs, taking your dishes to the next level immediately.
7. Invest in a good chef’s knife
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by large, several hundred dollar knife sets at those high end home stores. A fancy block, a million knives you’ll rarely use, and you’re charging way to much money on your credit card for something that largely just takes up space in your kitchen. I cook almost daily, and I use one knife for about 95% of my cooking needs. A good chefs knife is what you need to dice, chop and prep the vast majority of your cooking ingredients. When looking for a good chef’s knife, loof for:
- A forged knife. Forged knives are made from a single piece of metal under extreme heat.
- High carbon stainless steel. Durable and doesn’t rust easily.
- Handle weight: A good quality chef’s knife has a heavy handle, but you want to make sure it’s comfortable for you. I suggest getting hands on and handling your knife to make sure it feels like something you can easily control.
Once you have your chef’s knife, take the time to learn how to use it. This video from Jamie Oliver (warning: Jamie uses some strong language) walks through some basic knife skills to master.
8. Look up multiple recipes
When you’re looking for a recipe, don’t just go to one and stop. Find three that look good to you, read through them and highlight the ideas from each you like. Use those differences to create your own version of your favorite dishes. This teaches you how to think like a chef, not just a paint-by-numbers home cook.
9. Cook Often
At the end of the day, the best way to become a better cook is to use these tools above and cook often. Try new things, like some of our recipes here at Nerd Chefs. Keep looking up recipes you’ve never made before. Get adventurous. Try new techniques, like braising or sous vide. Overcome adversity and learn how to save dishes through trial and error. The more you practice, the more things get thrown at you and the better of a chef you’ll become.0